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Poster: light into ashes Date: Sep 26, 2010 1:10am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: the band talks about setlists

So here's a bunch of quotes I gathered on the setlist issue & how much things were planned...
Almost all of these are from the '80s, so they might not reflect accurately early '70s or '90s shows, but their habits probably didn't change too much!

I think the early '70s had more 'on-the-fly' setlists, since they did not often do 'whole-second-set' segues then, and they didn't have that rigid show "shape" they had later on. There's lots of down-times between songs you can hear Jerry signal the next song with a little lick. Like on 4-11-72 -
Weir: "We're gonna do our best to try to decide what to do next and then do it." (Garcia plays Tennessee Jed lick) "Back home that's what's known as telegraphing the next song. By playing a characteristic lick out of it. Then the audience all know what you're going to play next. But seeing as you've never heard it before, there's no problem."

Anyway, on to the '80s:
Brent: “The day before my first concert I asked what tunes we’d be doing, so I could concentrate on those songs, but no one would tell me. It freaked me a bit, but then when we got on stage I realized that nobody knew what we were going to play. Keeps you on your toes…”
Garcia: “Usually on the first set, Weir and I try to remember which of us went first last show.”
Weir: “Some of it is up to what tunes are up in the rotation; some of it is just how it feels like it will fall together best. The first set, we’ll usually set the first two or three songs and then go on from there. Usually we have a little huddle before the second set and try to plan out the first half of the second set, based on how it’s gone so far, and what we feel like singing. Often enough, though, that gets tossed aside. Sometimes we don’t even start with the song we just agreed on – someone gets a different idea once we’re onstage.”
Garcia: “Sometimes we plan, but more often than not, we find that when we do, we change our plans. Sometimes we talk down a skeleton of the second set, to give ourselves some form – but it depends. The important thing is that it not be dull and that the experience of playing doesn’t get boring. Being stale is death.”
Weir: “We generally try to plot the songs as best we can, and leave them open for something. Oftentimes we’ll say, ‘We’ll do this, and follow it with this, and take it into this space, and see where it goes.’ That’s pretty much the standard. It’s not all that often that we plot out a set exactly, unless somebody has a real precise idea of what they want to do. And even then, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether it’ll come out the way it was planned. Most often, we plan it up to a certain point.”
Weir: “We sort of roughly mapped out how we were going to start a setlist and end a setlist. Jerry & I would do that because we were trading vocals, and then in the middle of the set, while Jer was singing, I had all the time on earth to figure out what I was going to do next.”
Garcia: “Sometimes you think of two songs as being sort of thematic, or they build on each other. I don’t even have a song list, which is real stupid. If I was just a bit more organized I’d have a printed copy of the songs we do…”
Phil: “I pretty much let them decide what they want to sing. Which may be a mistake, since we do get into ruts. What we need is a song list hanging everywhere that lists all our songs…”
Weir on Space: “For a while there, we would discuss current events or something before we went out, and every now & then we’ll still do it – come up with a motif for the jam. It’s almost never anything real serious… I think the night Bob Marley checked out we tried to do a little musical eulogy. Usually though, we’re just amusing ourselves back there during the drum solo, coming up with joke motifs for the jam: ‘Okay, you’re the stewardess aboard this hijacked airliner,’ or something like that.”
Weir: “Sometimes people drop hints in a jam to indicate what direction they might want to take it. After the jam’s gone wherever it’s going to go, someone will introduce something that suggests a direction, and then someone else will take a melody or theme and work that into something we already know. We’ll either pick up on it or we won’t… If I don’t hear something coming, or if I have an idea that I think might work & I assert it, sometimes someone will pick up on it, and sometimes it goes by unnoticed.”
Garcia: “Eventually I hope we can dispense with some of the regular things in our show that have gotten to be so predictable… We used to have material that went in more directions, but the nature of difficult material is that it’s easy to forget… We tend to be habitual: if there’s a formula that works, we tend to repeat it and do it to death. If you go to a lot of shows, you start to think, ‘These guys sure love this transition, they’re doing it all the fucking time!’… It used to be we’d go from one song into a wholly different kind of song, where the transition itself would be a piece of music – lately it’s much less that… When I choose to go from one song into another, I like a segue; Bob doesn’t seem to care. A lot of times we’ll discuss an idea before the second set, like Weir will say, ‘Let’s do Playing in the Band into Uncle John’s Band, into something.’ ‘Okay, sounds good.’ And more often than not they tend to chop off – Bob tends to splice them together.”
Phil: “We still have a lot of bad habits…the transitions are too short…we haven’t really explored a lot of the transitions. Usually the tunes are just juxtaposed brutally. There are many other ways we haven’t explored. The best thing to do would be if we’re sitting together, say during the drums, waiting to decide what to do next, we could really focus on some transitions: say, at the end of this tune we’ll use this scale or this set of chords, and change it to this scale which will put us in the key for the next song. But we hardly ever do that…out of thoughtlessness, or force of habit. Sometimes we might just want to finish the tune, finish the set, and get on with the encore!”

[Phil & Jerry actually had a disagreement over this – Jerry felt they’d done all the transitions, liked to repeat familiar segues, and felt like there was a limited amount of ‘open’ material they had, as he said they’d “used up” a lot of stuff – but Phil felt that they could open up the songs a lot more & the band was getting too static…
I noticed in interviews when Jerry was asked why Dead shows were so repetitive, he'd kind of sidestep the issue ('oh, we USED to do all that, now we just need to write some new songs' etc), whereas Phil was a bit more distressed about it ('we're ossifying, it's so frustrating, we could jam out so much more if the other guys were more receptive'). Both of them agreed the band needed to rehearse more, but never had the time. Or, maybe time wasn't the issue, but a certain amount of burnout & coasting on the material they had.]

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Poster: William Tell Date: Sep 26, 2010 6:46am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the band talks about setlists

Ah--very much the themes of this thread are tied together with your "conflicted members converse on setlist issue summary" if I may...IE, just as we thought, they did indeed have a plan, many a night, for at least the first few tunes, and if I read correctly, JG and Bob did, as my bandmates and I suspected, have a vague notion of alternating tunes they sang for the first few.

However, clearly that was not the same as a bona fide set list as other bands might have, as JOTS notes (ie, by "comparison" to other bands there is truth to the myth).

Nonetheless, my query about how things developed over time, and whether there was indeed still burnout, or at least boredom over what JOTS described as "the OBVIOUS jam sequence we do every time this particular song is started" did come up at least with some band members.

Thanks for all the addt'l info, LiA.

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Poster: AltheaRose Date: Sep 26, 2010 10:08pm
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the band talks about setlists

Hey LiA, great as always. Would love it if you put dates by the quotes, too. I can't help it; I'm an obsessive history nerd. I just like to contextualize (e.g., "80s" could mean 82 or 89, and that's pretty different ...) Of course, I'm also someone who actually reads footnotes. The more extensive the better, LOL. It must be an illness :-)

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Poster: Dudley Dead Date: Sep 27, 2010 8:20am
Forum: GratefulDead Subject: Re: the band talks about setlists

'we're ossifying, it's so frustrating, we could jam out so much more if the other guys were more receptive'. Bravo Phil . I watching the dvd of the 7/7/89 show with a friend, and as nice of a show as it is, those perfunctory , " Lets get this ,over with" segues always bother me. I mean "come on , linger just a few more moments, breath, let in unfold ..."etc.
It has always stuck me that the band's fans mostly,gave them carte blanche , and they rarely seemed to take advantage of this . It is like going into Baskin Robins and ordering vanilla everytime . Some of this is just pure laziness, in fact and in imagination . And with no "boss", no one could "call anyone's shit", especially when the nominal boss was a prime offender .
Notice with the Phil helmed bands, there are rehearsals, imaginative set lists, LOTS of jamming , and a boss ... but no Jerry .
Anyway thanks LIA , as always wonderful work .